MARSHFIELD, Wis. (August 2, 2014) – As it has many times in the past, patience and persistence paid off for Dalton Zehr on Saturday at Marshfield Motor Speedway. Zehr waited through several cautions and restarts to strike at the perfect time in TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Six Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes.
Zehr overtook Round Five winner Reagan May on a restart with 21 laps remaining and defended a late charge from Nick Panitzke to hold on for his eighth career TUNDRA win. The win helped Zehr stretch his point lead to 35 markers with just two races remaining.
It was at this point last season that Zehr lost ground in the Championship battle to eventual titlist Nick Panitzke and Eugene Gregorich Jr. This year, it was a relief for Zehr to be able to exit Marshfield with his head held high.
“It’s not like we built a huge gap here today, but we came in with a pretty comfortable gap,” he said. “We can’t have any wrecks or slip up and we should have a shot at the Championship. We’ve come so close so many times.”
Calm, cool and collected, it was the type of feature that Zehr had seen before. The race saw several cautions, a lengthy clean up and plenty of chances for Zehr to pick his way through the field. Marshfield Motor Speedwaylooked eerily similar to past TUNDRA races at Dells Raceway Park where Zehr took four wins between 2011 and 2012.
The event began just as it did one season ago, with Cardell Potter pacing the initial circuits. Just as he was about to be challenged by Frank Nitzke, the caution fell for a spin by Zach Preiss. Nitzke declined the outside line on the lap-four restart, leaving the high side for May.
May was more than happy to remind the rest of the field of her success in the high line at LaCrosse when the green fell. She rocketed away from Potter to the lead, and left the outside open for Gregorich to challenge Nitzke for second.
Gregorich’s charge on the outside line began to fade, leaving room for Brent Strelka to challenge Potter for the runner up spot. As Strelka sized up Potter, Zehr had crept into a top-five spot from his ninth-place starting position. Strelka stole second from Potter on lap 11, and Zehr moved to third one lap later.
Before Strelka and Zehr were able to attempt to reel in May a caution fell on lap 17 when Majeski and Jim Sauter Jr. tangled. Zehr had moved past Strelka by this time and took the inside line on to following restart with May again electing to stay up high.
Once again May proved to be too strong on the outside. Nitzke immediately challenged Zehr for second, but was unable to move past him. Not too far behind that battle Panitzke, who had set fast time earlier in the evening, had moved to fifth at the halfway point of the feature. He grabbed two more spots in the next four laps.
Lap 29 proved to be adventurous and lengthy. The initial caution fell when Adam Royle spun in turn two. The following restart was waived when Zehr jumped in front of May. A third attempt proved no better and bred a red flag when Gregorich was clipped in the left rear, sent spinning and made hard contact with the outside wall in turn two. The caution was then extended when a shock mount broke on Strelka’s machine when the field re-fired, costing him a chance for a top five.
When the field was stopped on the front stretch for a lengthy clean up the top three were interviewed. Nick Panitzke’s comment seemed the boldest when he said, “I don’t think the racing has even begun yet.”
The words of last year’s Champion proved to be prophetic. After the restart Zehr was able to grab the lead from May. Panitzke had to work to fight off Nitzke, but eventually was able to set his sights on May for second. She said she knew she was in for a battle when she saw the scoreboard during the red flag.
“I could see the 119 and the 22 were behind us. I knew they were great cars and it was going to be hard to beat those two. We just used our stuff up a little too early.”
As the top three broke away, some furious racing took place just outside the top five. Jeff Weinfurter, Billy Mohn and Majeski frantically tried to grab fifth. Eventually Majeski slipped through.
Another caution fell with 13 to go when J. Herbst spun on the front stretch. TUNDRA officials warned spotters that this would bring the final double-file restart of the race. May again took the outside in hopes to challenge Zehr again. However, Zehr got away, and May eventually lost second to Panitzke.
Panitzke had one final chance when Kelsey Bauer spun with seven laps remaining. Zehr knew the restart would be key, even though it was to be single file.
“We were really trying to take care of our tires. This place eats them up,” he said. “I knew Nick was fast and I don’t know how many laps we could have maintained that kind of speed. But, it was enough. I fired plenty early on that [restart]. I knew I had to because Nick was going to be breathing down my neck.”
The restart played out just as Zehr had hoped, and he was able to run away from Panitzke.
“It would have been fun to get up next to him and do battle, but he got a real good restart on the last one,” Panitzke said. “I tried to stay with him but the car started getting a little free. I was able to maintain distance, but I just couldn’t gather him back up.”
May and Majeski went unchallenged to hold third and fourth, but behind them the mayhem continued. Nitzke’s machine was overcome by overheating in the final two laps and he dropped to the infield. Corey Jankowski made a bold move on the final circuit and swung to fifth. He had started 28th.
With just two races remaining in the 2014 season, Zehr’s lead sits at 35 over the team of Majeski and Mark Mackesy and remained 41 over Panitzke, who moved to third. Bobby Kendall moved to fourth, but fell to 64 points out of the lead. Gregorich’s accident dropped him to fifth, 67 points out of the lead.
TUNDRA will take three weeks off and spring back into action on Saturday, August 23. The series returns to its birth place Dells Raceway Park for Round Seven Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes.
The Unified Northern Drivers Racing Association (TUNDRA) Super Late Model Series was formed in 2011 as the Alive For Five Super Late Model Series at Dells Raceway Park. TUNDRA’s business plan is based on a sustainable program for promoters and race teams alike, while still providing high-quality Super Late Model entertainment to fans.
For more information on TUNDRA including news, results and the 2014 standings, archived results and standings, and more visit www.tundrasuperlates.com. Also, interact with us on Facebook (facebook.com/TundraSuperLateModels) or Twitter (@TUNDRAslms).
– TUNDRA press release and photo